Cultivating a Habit of Gratitude

Giving gratitude time and space in your life is a hot topic these recent years, and good news is that it isn’t an empty act. Gratitude has been shown to help create mental shifts in the way people feel. Martin, Steen, Park, & Peterson (2005) found in their research that a one time act of gratitude resulted in an immediate 10% increase in happiness and 35% reduction in depressive symptoms, but the effects disappeared within six months and three months, respectively. However, instructing participants to write down three things that went well and their causes every night for one week had a longer-lasting impact. After one week, participants were 2% happier than before, but in follow-up assessments, the happiness continued to increase, from 5% at one month, to 9% at six months. Despite being instructed to journal for one week, study participants enjoyed the exercise so much, that they continued doing it on their own.

Beach gratitude image

The trick is to turn these healthy strategies into habits. Here are some tips for turning a gratitude practice into a habit:

  1. Have a gratitude buddy. Ask your friends or family if they want to start a gratitude practice and then check-in with each other weekly for accountability.
  2. Make it simple and easy. Keep a small notebook near your desk or couch and set an alarm on your smart phone to remind you. This helps with consistency, which helps turn a new behavior into a habit.
  3. Set a timer and brainstorm your gratitude for 2 minutes. Seriously. It doesn’t take long to be thankful for the warm weather or phone call from friend or a smile from a stranger. When we ask ourselves if we have 2 minutes to spend on gratitude, it’ll be hard to say no, even when we’re feeling taxed and busy.
  4. Finding yourself stumped one day? Maybe you’re feeling down and it’s hard to tap into your sense of gratitude. Here are some kick-starters: What has been the least difficult part of your day? Did you have access to food today? Did you body function today in some helpful way? Who in your life is easy to love? What conveniences of the western world can you access today? What was outside your window today?

I’d love to hear what you’re most grateful for this month. Feel free to share in the comments below. It may spark an inspiration of gratitude in others.

One thought on “Cultivating a Habit of Gratitude”

  1. Karin Lawson says:

    I’m grateful for living near the ocean, for my family (including my fur people – Katniss & River) and for adventures small and large.

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Karin Lawson

2312 Wilton Drive, Suite 22
Wilton Manors, FL 33305